The story of the week has been the confirmed poisoning of a white-tailed eagle found dead on a shooting estate in Dorset in January, and Dorset Police’s astonishing decision to close the investigation even though toxicology results had proved that poisoning was the cause of death (see here, here, here, here and here).
There’s still much more to come out about this story and I’ve spoken to a few journalists in the last few days who are making some headway. Let’s see what they produce in the coming days.
Meanwhile, in the course of these conversations I’ve learned that another white-tailed eagle is suspected to have been poisoned on a shooting estate in Dorset.
I’ve deliberately used the word ‘suspected’ in this case because unlike the first eagle, poisoning hasn’t been confirmed and the eagle hasn’t died.
This second case is not on the same shooting estate where the dead (confirmed poisoned) eagle was found, but it is on another game-shooting estate and it is nearby.
I understand that initially, this second eagle’s satellite tag data indicated that the eagle’s movements were unusual and this was a cause for concern given the eagle’s location and proximity to the area where the poisoned eagle had been found dead. A multi-agency team made a site visit to look for this second eagle and they found it, still alive but displaying some of the characteristic physical traits of a raptor that has ingested a large amount of an anticoagulant rodenticide (e.g. lethargic, head-drooping).
While on site searching for the sick eagle, a number of undisclosed items were apparently discovered which sparked a multi-agency raid on the estate a short while later and I understand that as a result of that search, multiple toxicology results are now pending from the lab.
The second eagle appears to have since made a recovery and has recently moved away from the estate, although long-term health issues may still be an issue. Time will tell.
It’s important to emphasise that at this stage poisoning (rodenticide or another substance) has not been confirmed but it is suspected.
What’s interesting about this second investigation is that the police considered there was sufficient evidence to conduct a multi-agency search, even though toxicology results were still pending. This is in direct contrast to the police’s response to the first case where toxicology results from the dead eagle had confirmed that poisoning was the cause of death and that the high concentration of rodenticide in the eagle’s liver (7 x the lethal dose) was clearly indicative of suspicious activity, and yet Dorset Police decided not to progress that investigation.
This is quite hard to fathom, although I suspect that this multi-agency search on the other estate took place in early March under the direction of the diligent and highly-competent wildlife crime officer, Claire Dinsdale. The ridiculous decision not to progress the first investigation (into the circumstances of the dead, confirmed-poisoned eagle) appears to have been made later in March after Claire Dinsdale had apparently been signed off on indefinite sick leave.
I look forward to the publication of the latest toxicology reports, which should be available by now, surely, and full disclosure from Dorset Police about the status of this second investigation, as well as an explanation about why the first investigation was closed prematurely, especially when Dorset Police would have known about this second case of suspected poisoning on an estate in close proximity to where the dead poisoned eagle had been found.